Cronulla caretaker coach Josh Hannay said his players felt shattered after a 26-22 loss to Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night and were not satisfied with near enough.
Reeling after the messy departure of head coach John Morris three days earlier, the Sharks scored two tries in four minutes to turn a 20-12 deficit into a 22-20 lead late in the game and looked like ending a miserable week with a gutsy win.
But the brilliance of Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga, who scored the match-winning try in the 77th minute after earning a penalty at the other end of the field a minute earlier, proved the difference.
Ponga overcame a stomach bug to score two tries, and set up two more for Mitch Barnett and Brodie Jones, to help the Knights end a three-game losing skid.
"It's little comfort when you lose a game like that at the back end," said Hannay, who has taken the reins for the rest of this season before the Craig Fitzgibbon era begins in November.
Sharks come out firing early in the second
"Coming here, I guess we possibly would have taken that type of performance considering the week we've had, but ultimately we were a lazy kick-chase from probably winning that game.
"Four minutes to go, we were in control, and the only way they were getting out of their end tonight was when we piggy-backed them. We spoke about that, and that's what cost us in the end.
"We piggy-backed them through a lazy kick-chase and they made us pay the ultimate price."
Match Highlights: Knights v Sharks
Hannay admonished centre Jesse Ramien for the kick-chase penalty, and forward Jack Williams for a lifting tackle that gave the Knights a platform for Ponga to set up the Jones try in the 55th minute.
"Their two tries, we spoke about making them work for their field position and their two tries came off penalties," Hannay said.
"Jack Williams, a tackle four lifting penalty invited them into our end and they scored, and four minutes to go, Jesse Ramien off-side on a kick-chase invited them into our end and, again, we paid the ultimate price.
"They're gutted. It's been a challenging week and they put in enough effort to come away tonight with some reward for that effort, and one thing I know about this group, they're not happy with competing.
"They want to win and, despite the week we've had, we came here to win tonight and we did enough to win, and we undid it."
Hannay will give his players the weekend off then get them back to work on Monday to prepare for their next assignment against the winless Bulldogs at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium next Saturday, when he hopes to welcome back Shaun Johnson, Wade Graham and Josh Dugan.
Despite the tumultuous events in the Shire this week, Hannay warned critics circling the Sharks to write the club off at their own peril.
Bunker awards try to Ramien
Having taken over from Paul Green at North Queensland midway through last season, coaching the Cowboys to just two wins from their final 10 games, Hannay is in his second caretaker stint in less than nine months.
The former Queensland Origin centre joined the Sharks last November as an assistant to Morris but was pushed into the top job on Tuesday after Fitzgibbon was announced as their head coach for the next three seasons and Morris was shown the door.
"Hopefully, things are a little bit more settled next week in terms of the media attention," Hannay said.
"The people who think this season is just going to be a waste now don't have any clue or idea of what this group are made of, and the work that's been put in, and the desire from them that the work that has been put in doesn't go to waste.
"That performance tonight, that effort, came as no surprise to anyone who understands this group."
Magic Round: One month to go